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STDs And HIV Co-Infection

std hiv coninfection

For biological and behavioral reasons, having an STD increases your risk of getting HIV Co-Infection diseases.

In fact, we now know that STDs such as syphilis and gonorrhea provide easier access for HIV to attack vulnerable cells and tissues of the body. STD co-infections actually increase the infectivity of a person with HIV, meaning they are more likely to transmit the virus to others.

STDs can increase HIV susceptibility in a number of ways including:

  • STDs like syphilis can cause open wounds or ulcers in the genital area. Wounds and ulcers can provide a direct route into the bloodstream for HIV.
  • While not all STDs cause open wounds, the presence of an infection can cause your body to increase the amount of CD4 T-cells in the genital area. Increased concentrations of these cells have shown to provide a favorable target infection for HIV.
  • People who have been diagnosed with an STD also have increased concentrations of HIV in their bodily fluids (seminal and vaginal). A study showed men infected with HIV and gonorrhea have higher levels of HIV virus in their semen than men who only have gonorrhea.

STD Statistics in the US

According to the CDC, almost 20 million new STD infections occur every year. New STD infections account for almost $16 billion in health care costs. Here’s a breakdown of the top three sexually transmitted diseases:

  • Chlamydia: 1,598,354 infections at a rate of 497 per 100,000
  • Gonorrhea: 468,514 infections at a rate of 146 per 100,000
  • Syphilis (primary and secondary): 27,814 infections  at a rate of 9 per 100,000
  • Syphilis (congenital): 628 at a rate of 16 per 100,000 live births

HIV and Syphilis

Syphilis and HIV have always had a history of co-infection. Syphilis infections in the HIV-positive community are 118 times higher than in the general population. Those are big numbers. Being on the receiving end of anal sex is considered a high-risk behavior for contracting STDs. This is because of how delicate and easy it is to tear anal tissue. Torn anal tissues allow a direct path for STDs to move between bodily fluids such as semen. This is why men who have sex with men are most affected by an HIV and syphilis co-infection.

HIV and Gonorrhea

According to data released by the Washington State Department of Health, around 6% of all people diagnosed with gonorrhea were already living with HIV. Even though it’s difficult to draw conclusions out of those types of numbers, there is a clear correlation.

HIV and Hepatitis C

Hep C has affected more the 170 million people in the past century. This makes it one of the most widespread epidemics in the world. Hep C is an incurable infection that comes with life-threatening side effects. These side effects include liver failure, cirrhosis, and cancer. The hepatitis infection also makes it more difficult for the body’s immune system to properly fight off infection, making it easier to catch HIV.

Antiviral meds are prescribed for both hep C and HIV. The biggest factor in whether someone will contract HIV with an active hep C infection is patient behavior, like unprotected sex and intravenous drug use. Living with hep C and HIV is one of the major criteria for receiving an AIDS diagnosis. Around 25% of HIV-positive Americans have hep C as well.

Preventing Co-Infections

Regular testing and early detection are the best ways to prevent STDs and subsequent co-infections. Getting tested means knowing your status. Knowing your status means preventing further transmissions and also receiving treatments. If you have any concerns about sexually transmitted infections, contact myLAB Box™ and get the information you need today.   


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